Arriving on a sunny afternoon, I parked along Huston Street and walked up to the National Healing Center. Several people were entering the store at the same time. Two security guards were at the front asking the customers if they were new or returning customers. New customers are required to fill out a form and show picture identification. I waited in line.

“Are you new here?”

“Yes, but I am not here to buy anything. I have an appointment with the owner.”

The security guard had me sign a form, and he issued me a clearance tag to wear around my neck. Upon entering through another set of doors, I was immediately impressed with the professionally designed (architect, Craig Smith), expansive, well-lighted room. The place was spotless and about the size of a basketball court. In the middle of the room stood a 4-sided glass counter in the shape of a square—several employees stood within the plexiglass box as customers looked at a variety of marijuana buds showcased delicately in clear acrylic cases. The employees answered questions. Prices were displayed clearly and the atmosphere seemed professional and relaxed. The customers’ ages varied from early 20s to 70s.

Helios Dayspring is the owner and primary visionary of the National Healing Center (NHC). When I interviewed Helios at his new facility which opened on July 4, 2018 in Grover Beach (998 Huston Street 805-201-1498), he kindly reminisced with me about his youthful mistakes while trying to find his passion in life. He shared how proud he is of being a local here on our Central Coast.

“I was born here, attended Morro Bay High School, and have always loved this area.”

At the age of 14, he knew school wasn’t for him. By 16, he realized his passion. It revolved around marijuana—smoking it, buying it, selling it, and growing it. As one might imagine, at that time, marijuana was illegal, so Helios sometimes found himself on the wrong side of the law. He decided to move to Connecticut where he challenged himself physically with strenuous labor—cleaning and painting the bottoms of boats along the Atlantic Coast. Still, pot was integral to his spiritual and mental development, and he continued to experiment with it—adding to his expertise. When he returned to the Central Coast, he became involved in the legal delivery of his product to consumers. Of course, his dream always was to open his own store.

As I enter my 40th year of teaching, one of the many lessons I’ve learned from my students is simply this—learning is an individualistic experience. Traditional education is not going to be right for everyone, and let’s face it—education is all around us, not just inside a classroom.

“Hey Helios, when you were a freshman at MBHS, do you remember an English teacher by the name of Mr. Badrigian?”

The corner of his lips slowly turned upwards as he began to laugh out loud. “I thought you looked familiar! I was in your English class!” Helios educated himself in a narrow field of expertise; however, after he became successful, he broadened his education. He dedicated his energy to learning everything he could about Cannabis. One might say, his prophetic vision concerning the many uses of marijuana placed him in the forefront of its rapidly rising use.

“I am thankful to the Grover Beach Community for accepting me and my business here. This business gave me an identity. My employees have dedicated their lives toward my vision, and I want them to end up with equity in the business. We are in this together, and I can’t do this alone.”

With that realization, Helios partnered with Bill Szymczak, an older, soft-spoken gentleman who stepped in and provided Helios with some financial backing and age-tested wisdom. Bill was formerly the Director of Housing and Development (HUD) in San Francisco from 1970—1985.

“I met Helios through some mutual friends, and he impressed me with his dedication, commitment, and vision. I felt his timing was right on this venture, and I believe we’ve made a good team.”

“Is there anyone else who helped you along the way?”

“Definitely. My girlfriend Valnette Garcia runs the delivery side of my business (House of Holistics). For the past five years, she has been by my side every step of the way. I can’t thank her enough for believing in me.”

“You and Bill have answered my questions honestly and intelligently. Are there other articles that have been written about your business?”

“Nope, you are the trailblazer on this. We have been around for a long time, but to have our product and story out of the shadows and into the light is a great feeling.”

“How do you know for sure that your product is safe?”

“Our marijuana is strictly regulated from seed to sale. It has to go through CAT 2 level testing which is the highest standard of testing— remember, this product is an inhalant; therefore, it must be pure. The cannabis you buy here is safer than the vegetables you are eating out there. It is quarantined, tested, packaged, then tested again. These are rigorous CA regulations that are performed by third party experts to insure the public’s safety.

“You and Bill took a risk. How did you know it would work out?”

“We didn’t really. We just knew that we were on the right side of history when it came to our product. Times are changing, people’s minds are changing. The science is backing us up. Many medicines are derived from plants; we believe quality marijuana will continue to be one of the game-changers. Also, we have accumulated over 2,000 acres of land from Northern Santa Barbara to Northern San Luis Obispo County to grow our product. Right now, we are seeking legal rights, so we can continue to meet demand.”

“Speaking of demand, how is that going for you?”

“Well, since we first opened, the line has been out the door. We have customers from the Central Valley driving over here because there are no dispensaries there. I hope Morro Bay will welcome us like Grover Beach did. I want to be the local distributor in this area because I live here; I care about this community. I don’t want to see some large out-of-town conglomerate come in here and turn my town into a mine where they ship off all of the cost of goods and profits to some base camp leaving thecity with only the tax that is implemented to benefit the community.”

“How profitable is your business at this point?”

“Our business is growing 20% each month, and 65% of our customers are senior citizens. Last month, we took in six figures, and I don’t see it slowing down. We hope to expand our business by growing our product indoors as well. However, we believe SLO County may have the best climate to grow marijuana in the country, if not the world. Think about it; if you drive over the hill, most of what you see is grapes. Why wouldn’t marijuana do as well as the grapes are doing?”

Helios Dayspring is a young entrepreneur who dared to defy conventional thinking. Despite facing heavy headwinds, he and his partners moved forward. Today, he hopes to help people by producing a product that is an organic, high quality, strictly tested, and safe alternative to synthetic pharmaceuticals.

I hope he succeeds.